Pokémon Go has been taking the world by storm since its debut earlier this month. Even if you’ve never heard of the original Pokémon card game, there’s slim chance that you haven’t been inundated with news about this addicting new mobile app. Whatever your feelings towards Pokémon Go, there’s no denying how brilliant its creation is.
Niantic, the developer of this app, is now responsible for Nintendo’s shares going up 25 percent and adding $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market share. Scores of articles are being written about Pokémon Go and what the real-world gaming future entails. Some people are fearful of what it could lead to (and what it already has led to). Some want to sit back and enjoy the ride as it was meant to be enjoyed. But the truth is our future has already started. If it wasn’t Pokémon Go changing how we play games, travel and connect with people, it will be something else. So as with anything, understand the pros and cons and make your own best decision.
Stranger Danger & Other Hazards
There have been a frightening amount of crimes revolved around Pokémon Go. Criminals have been using Pokémon Go for their own nefarious games. Armed robbers have been waiting at Pokéstops (where you get free items) and where Pokémon are known to be on the geolocation app. Discussing one Missouri armed robbery in which criminals lured their victims into a trap using the app, Sgt. Bill Stringer says, “Using the geolocation feature [of Pokémon Go], the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims.” There are many other horrible crimes and accidents that occurred because of the game, including stabbings, shootings, car crashes, people getting lost in mines, house break-ins, people falling off cliffs, and much more.
Invasion of Physical Privacy
There’s the obvious issue of privacy for those whose homes are near Pokéstops or surrounded by invisible digital monsters that people keep trying to catch with their phones. One man’s home was dubbed a Pokémon Gym (where players physically go to train their Pokémon and battle others), which gathered players to his property at all hours.
The shooting mentioned in the previous Con section was due to the fact that the Pokémon Go players were loitering outside of a man’s home and talking about catching Pokémon. The homeowner mistook their conversation for theft of his property and so he confronted them. The players drove towards him and he fired his gun. Thankfully, nobody was injured. But with laws protecting homeowners from defending their property, this is bound to happen again (and again). And really, can you imagine waking up in the middle of the night with multiple people in their cars, loitering outside of your property, whether they’re quiet or not? It’s not overreacting to call that situation a nightmare.
Invasion of Digital Privacy
When the Pokémon Go app first emerged, many players jumped on board without reading the fine print. What they were unaware of was that they had granted Niantic full access to their Google accounts—Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google+ photos, and more. While Niantic has since fixed this issue, players who have already used their iPhone and Google account to log in to Pokémon Go have needed to log out of their app, download the app’s update and log back in with the Google account to fix it. They need to then go to their Google My Account website and make sure Pokémon Go is not under the “Connected Apps & Sites” tab.
Another issue that many millennials don’t seem to have many qualms about is the ever-constant tracking of our locations. By using this geolocation game, Pokémon Go has access to and tracks its users’ phones’ locations and IP addresses. You may shrug at this (since Google does the same type of tracking with Google Maps), but it’s important that people understand that in this day and age, that’s not necessarily where your information ends. Locations, purchasing patterns, online searches, and everything else you can imagine doing on the internet, is tracked (and even sometimes sold) as Big Data.
Good for Health
The coolest aspect of Pokémon Go, in my opinion, is that the game has been getting people to go outside and exercise. People who would normally spend their mornings sleeping in are now getting up earlier to go out on walks to collect Pokémon. One player who is now exercising because of the mobile game says, “The system for making your Pokémon stronger actually encourages catching the same Pokémon multiple times, which makes each encounter still feel rewarding even when you already have that Pokémon.” So not only are people going out to exercise, but the rewards for their work is not getting stale.
While childhood obesity in the U.S. is on the rise, Pokémon Go seems like a great way to battle this epidemic. Not only is the game a rewarding and fun way to get children (and adults) to exercise, but it also helps players to go outside and become a part of the community.
Good for the Community
PokéStops are where players go to get items they can use for the game; Pokémon Gyms are where players train and battle their collected Pokémon. These are generally in public places such as lakes, community centers, playgrounds, parks, and bus stops.
Now, when is the last time you saw a large group of adult men hanging out in a park, laughing, talking, and NOT acting suspiciously? When was the last time you saw groups of strangers politely meeting each other IN PERSON a peaceful, public setting? These are all common occurrences now because of Pokémon Go. People are actually going outside, meeting people, making connections, and enjoying themselves. Yes, it’s through a mobile game. But we’ll take what we can get.
There’s now even a dating app for Pokémon Go players to meet other likeminded individuals to go on Pokédates with. During the dates, I assume, players go on hunts to find Pokémon in the community and battle each other. Sure, they will be on their phones and playing a game the whole time, but millennials do that on dates anyway, so why not.
Good for Business
Pokémon Go has been startlingly positive for many small businesses. Not only is the game getting players to travel more, and thus spend more money, but there are also ways for business owners to purchase lures to quite literally lure Pokémon and players to their shops. This is especially great for businesses like casual restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and gyms. If you own or work at an establishment such as this, we highly recommend taking advantage of this trend while it lasts.
While PokéStops are generally in public spaces, many businesses are finding themselves close in proximity to them. Yelp has even jumped on the bandwagon by displaying businesses that are near PokéStops. Again, this is a great marketing opportunity for coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Players can go collect what they want from the PokéStop, then make their way over to the local businesses to spend money.
Many businesses have been marketing themselves as Pokémon Go hubs. Some have been promising to drop a lure for players if a certain amount of products have been sold, some offer discounts for Pokémon Go players. One ridesharing company in Boston is offering discounted rides for those picked up and dropped off at Pokéstops. The marketing ideas are endless.
Whether you think the game is silly or superb, there’s no denying that there are many positive and negative aspects to Pokémon Go. As with anything, one needs to be aware of their surroundings and read the fine print. But once you understand what you’ve signed up for, there’s a lot of good that can come from this game. Imagine being able to finally check off your new year’s resolutions of exercising more, spending more time outdoors, making new friends, and driving more customers to your business! This ingenious mobile app can let you “catch ‘em all” and more.